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The first Catholic Mass in the Philippines was held on March 31, 1521, Easter
Sunday. It was said by Father Pedro de Valderrama along the shores of what was
referred to in the journals of Antonio Pigafetta as "Mazaua". It is widely believed by
many to be Limasawa at the tip of Southern Leyte, though this is contested by some
who assert that the first mass was instead held at Masao, Butuan.

When Ferdinand Magellan and his European crew sailed from San Lucar de
Barrameda for an expedition to search for spices, these explorers landed on the
Philippines shore after their voyage from other proximate areas. On March 28, 1521,
while at sea, they saw a bonfire which turned out to be Mazaua (believed to be today's
Limasawa) where they anchored.

The island's sovereign ruler was Rajah Siaiu. When Magellan and comrades set
foot on the grounds of Mazaua, he befriended the Rajah together with his brother Rajah
Kulambu of Butuan. In those days, it was customary among the indigenous—and in
most of southeast Asia—to seal friendship with a blood compact. On instigation of
Magellan who had heard the Malayan term for it, casicasi, the new friends performed
the ritual. This was the first recorded blood compact between Filipinos and Spaniards.
Gifts were exchanged by the two parties when the celebration had ended.

In the afternoon of the same day, Magellan instructed his comrades to plant a
large wooden cross on the top of the hill overlooking the sea. Magellan's chronicler,
Antonio Pigafetta, who recorded the event said:

"After the cross was erected in position, each of us repeated a Pater Noster and an Ave
Maria, and adored the cross; and the kings [Colambu and Siaiu] did the same."

Magellan then took ownership of the island where he had landed in the name of King
Charles V which he named earlier on March 16 Archipelago of Saint Lazarus because it
was the day of the saint when the Armada reached the archipelago.On June 19, 1960,
Republic Act No. 2733, called the Limasawa Law, was enacted without Executive
approval on June 19, 1960.



Sec. 1.The site in Magallanes, Limasawa Island in the Province of Leyte, where the first
Mass in the Philippines was held is hereby declared a national shrine to commemorate
the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.

Sec. 2.All historical monuments and landmarks in said site shall be preserved and/or
reconstructed whenever necessary as much as possible in their original form and are
hereby declared national historical monuments and landmarks.

Sec. 3.The National Planning Commission shall exercise supervision and control over
the reconstruction and/or preservation of the aforesaid site and monuments, and shall
issue rules and regulations to effectuate the preceding sections of this Act.

Sec. 4.Necessary funds for the purposes of this Act shall be provided for in the annual
appropriations for public works and disbursements shall be made by the National
Planning Commission under such rules and regulations as the Auditor General may

Sec. 5. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

The legislative fiat declared the site in Magallanes, Limasawa Island in the Province of
Leyte, where the first Mass in the Philippines was held is hereby declared a national
shrine to commemorate the birth of Christianity in the Philippines. Magallanes is east of
the island of Limasawa. In 1984 Imelda Marcos had a multi-million pesos Shrine of the
First Holy Mass built, an edifice made of steel, bricks and polished concrete, and
erected on top of a hill overlooking barangay Magallanes, Limasawa.

The evidences in favor of Limasawa may outline as follows:

1. The Evidence of Albo’s Log-book
2. The Evidence of Pigafettta
a. Pigafetta’s testimony regarding the route
b. The evidence of Pigafetta’s map
c. An argument from omission
3. Summary of the evidence of Albo and Pigafetta
4. Confirmatory evidence from Legazpi Expedition

The Evidence of Albo’s Log- Book

According to the book of Miguel Bernad, Francisco Albo joined the Magellan
expedition as a pilot (“contra- maestre”) in Magellan’s flagship “Trinidad”. He was one of
the eighteen survivors who returned with Sebastian Elcano on the “Victoria” after having
circumnavigated the world. Albo began keeping his own diary, merely on a log-book, on
the voyage out, while they were sailing southward in the Atlantic along the coast of
South America, off Brazil. His account of their entry into the Philippine waters (or as it
was then called, the archipelago of San Lazaro) such is Albo’stestimony, the island that
he calls Gada seems to be the acquada of Pigafetta, namely the island of Homonhon
where they took supplies of water and wood. The large island of Seilani which they
coast of the island, then turning southwest they came upon a small island named,
Mazava, which lies at a Latitude of 9 and two-thirds degrees North that fits the location
of the small island of Limasawa, south of Leyte. The island’s southern tip is at 9° 54’ N.
It is to be noted that Albo does not mention the first Mass, but only the planning of the
cross upon a mountain-top from which could be seen three islands to the west and
southwest. This also fits the southern end of Limasawa. It does not fit the coast of
Butuan from which no island could be seen to the southwest, but only towards the north.

The Evidence of Pegafetta

The most complete account of the Magellan expedition is that by Antonio

Pigafetta entitled Primo viaggiointomo al mondo(First Voyage Around the World). Like
Albo, he was a member of the expedition and was therefore an eyewitness of the
principal events which he describes, including the first Mass in what is now known as
the Philippine Archipelago, but which Magellan called the Islands of Saint Lazarus.

The evidence of Pigafetta’s Maps

Both the Ambrosian and the Nancy codices of Pigafetta’s narrative are illustrated
with maps, or more precisely, diagrams or sketches. Pigafetta was no cartographer and
his maps had probably no value as navigational charts. But they are extremely useful in
helping to identify the islands which he mentions in the narrative, and they help to
establish the relative positions (and even the relative sizes) of those islands.

One such map shows the Igre island of Samar (in the map it is spelt Zamal), and
the smaller islands of Suluan, Abarien, Hinuangan and “Humunu” (Homonhon), which is
also described as “Aguadalybonisegnaly”

A second map is really a double map. One map shows the island of Mindanao or
Maguindanao (the map spells it Mamgdanao). It shows on the northern shore a deep
indentation which is recognizably Panguil Bay. To the west of that is “Cippit”. To the
extreme east, bordering on the Pacific, are Butuan, Calagan, and Benasan (spelt in the
map Butuan, Calagam, Benasam). The other map shows the southern tip of
Zamboanga, the island of Basilan, and the Sulu archipelago.

A third map is the one most pertinent to our present investigation, because it
shows the island of Mazaua (the map spells it Mazzana) in relation to the “islands” of
“Ceilon” and “Baibai” (i.e. Leyte) and to those of Bohol, Gatighan and the three islands
of the Camotes Group (in the map called Polon, Pozon and Ticobon).

Summary of the Evidence of Albo and Pigafetta

Taking the evidence of Albo’s log-book together with that from Pigafetta’s account
we may take the following points as established:

1. Magellan’s expedition entered Philippine waters south of the island of Samar and
dropped anchor at Homonhon where they stayed a week. Then they sailed
westward towards Leyte and the southwards parallel to the eastern coast of that
island and that of the adjoining island of Panaon. Rounding the southern tip of
the later, they anchored off the eastern shore of a small island called Mazaua.
There they stayed a week, durinh which Eastern Sunday they celebrated Mass
and planted the cross on the summit of the highest hill.
2. The island of Mazaua lies at a latitude of nine and two- thirds degrees North. Its
position (south of Leyte) and its latitude correspond to the position (south of
Leyte) and its latitude correspond the position and latitude of the island of
Limasawa, whose southern tip lies at 9 degrees and 54 minutes North.
3. From Mazaua the expedition sailed northwestwards through Canigao channel
between Bohol and Leyte, then norther wards parallel to the eastern coast of this
latter island, then they sailed westward to the Camotes Group and from there
southwestward to Cebu.
4. At no point in that itinerary did the Magellan expedition go to Butuan or any other
point on the Mindanao coast. The survivots of the expedition did go to Mindanao
later, but after Magellan’s death.

The Legazpi Expedition

There is confirmatory evidence from the documents of the Legaspi expedition,

which sailed into Philippine waters in 1565, forty-four years after Magellan. One of the
places that Legaspi and his pilots were anxious to visit was precisely Mazaua, and to
this end they inquired about “Mazaua” from Camotuan and his companions, naives of
the village of Cabalian at the southeastern end of the island of “Panae” (Panaon), which
was separated from Letye by a narrow strait, and anchored off “Mazaua” – but they
found the inhabitants to be occurred in the four-decade interval between the Legazpi
and the Magellan expenditions.

From Mazaua they went to Camiguing (which was “visible” from Mazaua), and
from there they intented to go to Butuan on the island of “Vindanao” but were driven
instead by contrary winds to Bohol. It was only later that a small contingent of Spaniards
in a small vessel, managed to go to Butuan.
The point seen clear: As pilots of the Legazpi expedition understood it, Mazaua was an
island near Leyte and Panaon; Butuan was on the island of Mindanao. The two were
entirely different places and in no wise identical.

The Butuan Monument

In 1953 a petition was sent to the National Historical Committee asking that the Butuan
monument be rehabilitated and re-erected. This petition put the committee in a
quandary, since to comply with it would give the impression that the Philippine
government was giving official sanction to the tradition that the first Mass on Philippine
soil had been celebrated at Butuan. Accordingly, the petition was referred to the
Secretary of the Committee, Mr. O.D Opiana, for study and comment. Opiana
formulated his conclusions and recommendations in a memorandum addressed to
Montilla dated September 30, 1953. In that memorandum, Opiana reviewed some of the
evidences in favor of the Butuan tradition by citing some of the authors that support it.
Then, having quoted an impressive array of authorities in favor of Butuan, the Butuan
contention was brushed aside, merely quoting that seemed (in the contex) an apodictic
statement by Don Jayme de Veyra:

The Committee’s action was correct, and so, for that matter, was Opiana’s
memorandum. Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why the defenders of the Butuan
tradition should have been offended by what to them must have seemed like a high
handed and arbitrary rejection of their claim. In the event, despite the resolution of 1953,
the Historical Committee apparently did nothing to rehabilitate the Butuan monument. In
1978, however, a more honorable future was being prepared for that monument. The
municipal authorities were constructing a concrete pedestral, shaped like the prow of a
ship, upon which to mount the monument. The monument should be preserved, it is a
historical artifact. But the historical error in the 1872 inscription should be pointed out for
what it is: a historical error.
 Butuan pursue claim it was site first mass rp-485 years ago

Butuan city is the place where the event that marked the birth of Christianity in
the Philippines 485 years ago which it was still under dispute, with this city renewing its
claim that the historic first Mass celebrated by Spanish colonizers was held here and
not in Limasawa, Leyte.

Local executives and Church officials as well as historians here said they have
new scientific evidence to substantiate the refilling of a petition before the National
Historical Institute (NHI) asserting that Butuan City particularly Mazzaua Island was the
official site of the first Mass Easter Sunday in 1521.Among the pieces of evidence are
101-600- year old Balahangai boats believed to have been used for trade and to
transport people for worship services.

A law was passed by congress on June 19,1960 Republic Act No-2733 cleared
the site of Magallanes on Limasawa Island as the national shrine to commemorate the
first Mass ever held in the country that gave birth to Christianity in this now
predominantly Catholic nation. But the Butuan City Cultural and Historical Foundation
Inc with the backing of the Butuan City government in the early 1980s up to the 90s,
contested the declaration. This prompted the government in 1994 to form the Gancayco
Commission headed by the Supreme Court assosiate Justice Emilio Gancayco.

With their new proof ,According to Butuan City and Historical Foundation Inc its
has gathered 28 new pieces of scientific evidence and comparisons between the two
island-Mazzau and Limasawa to substantiate Butuan claim including the recovery of 10
Balanghi boats which were accidentally dug up near Masao River in 1976.


On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521, a mass officiated by the Augustinian Friar
Pedro Valderrama was held on the shore of Masao, Butuan, Agusan del Norte. At
sundown, Magellan planted a wooden cross on the summit of a hill overlooking the sea.
He named the country the Islas de San Lazaro.
Noted historian Dr. Sonia M. Zaide presented the evidence for Masao rather than
Limasawa [an island in Southern Leyte] as the site of the first recorded mass in the

First, in all primary sources including the diary of Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler
of Magellan's voyage, the name of the place was Mazaua. Limasawa has four syllables
and begins with another letter.

Second, according to primary records, the expedition traveled 20 to 25 leagues

from Homonhon, the first landing point. If they had been to Limasawa Island, the
distance is only 14.6 leagues or one-half of that length.

Third, the distance to Cebu from Mazaua according to Pigafetta was 35 leagues
[140 miles]. The distance from Limasawa to Cebu is only 80 miles.

Fourth, it was mentioned that the king came to their ship in a balanghai. Butuan
is now the site of at least nine excavated balanghai relics; by contrast, Limasawa has no
significant archeological relics or balanghai tradition.

Fifth, the Western explorers got excited at the abundance of gold in Mazaua, for
that was the main occurrence at that time. Both archeological relics and the gold mines
today attested to the abundance of gold in the Agusan Valley. Magellan never landed at
Limasawa at all.
The researchers concluded that the First Mass was held in Limasawa after it
found that:
The most complete and reliable account of the Magellan expedition into Philippine
shores in 1521 is that of Antonio Pigafetta which is deemed as the only credible primary
source of reports on the celebration of the first Christian mass on Philippine soil.
Pigafetta’sMazaua, the site of the first Christian Mass held on Philippine soil, is
an island lying of the southwestern tip of Leyte while Masao in Butuan is not an island
but a barangay of Butuan City located in a delta of the Agusan River along the coast of
Northern Mindanao. The position of Mazaua, as plotted by Pigaffeta, matched that of
Limasawa.The measurement of distances between Homonhon and Limasawa between
Limasawa and Cebu, as computed by the pro-Limasawa group, matches or
approximates the delineations made by Pigafetta of the distances between Mazaua and
Magellan’s fleet took a route from Homonhon to Mazaua and from Mazaua to
Cebu that did not at any time touch Butuan or any other part of Mindanao. The docking
facilities at Limasawa did not pose any problem for Magellan’s fleet which anchored
near or at some safe distance from the island of the eastern shore.

1. Valencia, Linda B. "Limasawa: Site of the First Mass". Philippines News Agency.
Ops.gov.ph. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
2. "Limasawa first mass not a 'hoax' – experts". CBCP News. Jan 1, 2019.
3. "A short Philippine History before the 1898 Revolution". Newsletter of the District of
Asia. Sspxasia.com. 2001. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
4. Agoncillo, Teodoro A. (1974). Introduction to Filipino History. Quezon City,
Philippines: GAROTECH Publishing. ISBN 971-10-2409-8.
5. Mercado, Monina A. (Editor) (1985). Dioramas:a visual history of the Philippines.
Metro Manila, Philippines: Ayala Museum.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
6. Agoncillo, Teodoro A. (1962 by Del Carmen Juliana). Philippine History. Manila,
Philippines: InangWika Publishing Co.
7. Halili 2004, pp. 73
8. Robles, Chan (1960) “REPUBLIC ACT NO. 2733”. Virtual Law Library.
Retrieved Jan 22, 2019
9. https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2006/04/02/329389/butuan-pursue-claim-it-was-site-
10. Serrano,Ben(April 2 2006) Butuan to pursue claim it was site of first Mass in RP 485 years
ago.Philstar Global Historian Sonia Zaide identified Masao/Mazau in Butuan as the location
of the first christian mass.The basis of Zaide's claim is the diary of Antonio
Pigafetta,chronider of Magellan's voyage.In 1995 then congress woman ching Plaza of
Agusan del Norte-Butuan City filed a bill on congress contesting the Limasawa hypothesis
and asserting the "site of the first mass"was Butuan.
Source:Halili,M.C(2004).Philliphine History .Rex Bookstore,Inc
11. Rosario M. Cortes, C. P. Boncan, Ricardo T. J., "The Filipino Saga: History as Social Change"
New Day Publishers, 2000. p. 489.
12. Maria Christine N. Halili, "Philippine History" Rex Book Store, 2014. p. 73.
13. Dirk Barreveld "CEBU - A Tropical Paradise in the Pacific" Lulu Press, Inc, 2014.

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